Summary: Stephen did not despair as they dragged him from the Sanhedrin to a place outside the city. He did not despair as they left their coats with a man named Saul so they could stone him. He did not despair as the stones began to beat his body. Why? Becaus
THE HOPE OF HEAVEN: STEPHEN
INTRODUCTION... Beauty and the Beast
One of my wife’s favorite movies of all time is Disney’s ’Beauty and the Beast’ which came out in the early 90s. The story centers around a young woman named Belle and her experiences with the Beast. The story begins with her father becoming lost in the woods and imprisoned by the Beast. Belle searches for her father and finds him in the Beast’s castle. She trades herself for him and agrees to stay with the Beast forever. The father flees back to town and reports what has happened and that his daughter is in danger. While this is happening, a romance grows between the Beauty and the Beast. The great hero hunter of the town, Gaston, whips the people into a frenzy to go and kill this Beast. Gaston wants Belle for himself of course and so there are dubious motives.
The people of the town attack the castle and will not listen to Belle that the Beast is harmless and will not pose any danger. The people are in such a frenzy to shed blood that this is all they can think of.
John 19:12-16 records for us the same kind of situation. The Roman governor Pilate sees that Jesus is an innocent man. The people would not listen to Pilate and only shouted “Take Him away! Take Him away! Crucify Him!” The chief priests were among the people stirring them up for bloodshed. In the end, the people were in such a frenzy that all they wanted to do was kill Jesus.
Our passage today, Acts 7:54-8:3, has this same element involved. The people became so frenzied for death that they killed a man named Stephen. You will see as we read this passage a little later that the people even covered their ears and yelled so that they could not hear reason. They wanted this man Stephen dead and in the end, they succeeded.
I would like to look at a little background this morning so that you understand who this person Stephen was and why he was in the situation he’s in at the end of Acts 7. The background for this man begins in Acts 6 and eventually we will arrive at the end of chapter 7 where I would like us to focus our time today.
I. STEPHEN’S BACKGROUND (Acts 6:1-7)
We first meet Stephen in Acts chapter 6. There was a serious situation in the church. The number of believers was increasing daily and many of them had physical needs that had to be met. Some were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. In 6:2, the Apostles gather and realize that the physical work of the church needed to be handled by others while they devoted themselves to teaching and preaching. 6:3-4 records the idea of seven men being set apart as having this responsibility... these are the first deacons. 6:5 shows us that Stephen was among the first seven chosen.
Why was Stephen chosen? What was about his character that brought him to the mind of the church? Acts 6 tells us that Stephen was a man “full of faith and full of the Holy Spirit.” What a complement! When looking for someone to do this most important work, this man Stephen, stood out and he was chosen and was ordained as a deacon in the church.
ILLUSTRATION... General Washington, Today in the Word, March 6, 1991
During the American Revolution a man in civilian clothes rode past a group of soldiers repairing a small
defensive barrier. their leader was shouting instructions, but making no attempt to help them. Asked why by the rider, he retorted with great dignity, “Sir, I am a corporal!”
The stranger apologized, dismounted, and proceeded to help the exhausted soldiers. The job done, he turned to the corporal and said, “Mr. Corporal, next time you have a job like this and not enough men to do it, go to your commander-in-chief, and I will come and help you again.” It was none other than George Washington.
Stephen accepted the offer of his church to serve them and to get in the trenches and love those around him. The Apostles had a job to do and needed men like Stephen to serve. He, along with six other men, accepted and were ordained. He was not perfect, but he worked with the Holy Spirit to use his gifts and talents among the people. He allowed himself to be used by God as a witness.
II. STEPHEN’S WITNESS (Acts 6:8-7:53)
We now know that Stephen was a man chosen for godly work. He was a man of faith. He was a man people considered full of the Holy Spirit. Acts 6:8 begins to tell us more and more about this person Stephen and the witness that he had for those around him. 6:8 describes Stephen as “a man full of God’s grace and power.” Stephen was fast becoming a leader in the church and even did ’great wonders’ among the people.